never underestimate the power of old punks…
by Art Chantry ( firstname.lastname@example.org)
TRY as i might, i just can’t get over these old school punky posters. the sheer unadulterated PURITY of these things will forever boggle my mind. every time i see a good one on a pole or a wall, i stop dead in my tacks and stare at it. a well done punk poster can blow away ANY competition. it dominates the wall with a visceral energy and directness of thought that hits you directly between the eyes like a two by four.
this little poster is actually a recent entry into the history of these things. i think it’s about 5 years old and comes from denver (of all places). it was created by one of my favorite snotty designer pals by the name of dana collins. dana is an art director/designer/illustrator who, at the time of this poster, was the art director of ‘west word’ – the “alternative newsweekly” of denver (alternative to what?). he later moved on to the LA Weekly and then the LA Beat. he burned on that route and is currently re-entered school (ArtsCenter in pasadena) to concentrate on illustration. the fact that illustration careers are dead as a doornail right now sorta puts his decision into some sort of perspective.
so, how come some high falootin’ art director of a snooty yuppie rag like westword doing punk posters like this? what was going on here? slumming? gathering a little “indie cred?”
dana is an old school punky skater dude. he was from oak harbor, washington (a military brat with an vietnam MIA father). it’s conservative and scary military town on an island (the aryan nations tried to establish oak harbor as a beach head for their separatist political dreams). his only way out of there was to turn delinquent and form a band called “the accused”, a name well know to underground and thrash heads everywhere. and beacuse a marine based at the local base was nasty enough to start a record label (tom hazelmeyer’s amphetamine reptile records), the accuse actually started releasing records, a near impossible achievement.
yup, he was the original drummer in the accused. and MAN, the touring ‘war stories’ he has to tell. when he gets into a jag of old accused war stories (they were among the toughest and most degenerate of them all), he can clear out a room. the scary thing is those stories are all true (yes, he actually DID one time drink El Duce under the table in a fair challenge). he really lived through all that. he survived, a little worse for wear, battle scarred, wiser than you wanna be and defiant to the end. he a sort of a hero.
i met him at the rocket, where he showed up (extremely fragile, having just cleaned up his life) and showed me a beginner’s student portfolio. but, it was his general attitude that i found interesting. i saw so many portfolios of remarkable talent while working at the rocket, that i began hiring freelancers based on THEM, not their portfolios. and dana definitely was the real deal.
on top of everything else, he was a snot. a quick witted (one of the fastest, smartest wisecrackers i’ve ever met) and fearless snot. he was a notorious prank phone-caller. in fact, some of his old phone calls were used in the movie ‘jerky boys.’ he once played for me a wonderful collection of prank phone calls an an extremely famous designer (at the time, the “hippest designer in the world”, who just could NOT control his anger OR his ability to simply hang up). after all dana had seen, what was to be afraid of, ya know? i knew he was going to do interesting stuff from sheer attitude.
his “career path” (such as there is in graphic design. pretty laughable concept – a “career path”. corporate ladder? oh, please!) eventually led him to denver. there he met up with guys like mark brooks and other sundried persona of what passed as a “scene” in that dreadful city. as time went on, he got t
tch to start making noise again. he ended up joining with some other adrift musicians and formed “chuck wow.” this was a poster for one of their own shows. and THAT’S how the art director for the snooty old “westword” started doing punk posters. he’ been done them all along. he’s “one of them.”
never underestimate the power of old punks. they are everywhere. punk happened over 30 years ago and is still staggering along (think ‘green day’ on broadway). we’ve had not one, but TWO generations of old punks mature and become part of the power structure. they never forget and their ideas are forever warped by the wars they fought. never forget that the editor of the lovely Communication Arts magazine used to play the drums in a punk band called “idiot”. they even played at the infamous mabuhay in SF. i figger pretty soon we’ll actually have a punk president. maybe we already do.
i love this little poster. there is no way to examine it without decided on it’s glowing quality and acerbic humor. it’s a twisted and defiant and extremely well executed LOW BUDGET (b&w xerox) masterpiece. but, then virtually everything dana does is like that. he’s sort of a walking masterpiece himself.
AC:never mind that the earliest cut-n-paste jamie reid style punk rock poster i’ve ever found was from seattle. tomata du plenty made a classic poster (that looks like what we think of as a “punk poster” about a whole years before the sex pistols ever gigged. seattle posters were always way ahead of the curve.
new york never really had ‘punk posters’ in the earliest days. the posters there looked like “picture with caption” type flyers and not real PUNK ROCK posters. that seemed to have developed elsewhere.
blah blah blah…my current favorite little book on punk posted is a thing put out by schiffer books ( a ‘collector’s bok publisher). it’s by a fella name of victor burleigh and reproduces his collection of punk flyers/posters. it’s great.
it’s weird to see a ‘collector press’ publisher do cool books, but this outfit also put out a great book on jim phillips and jack chick. wild stuff….